Political Notes: Gay mayor, supervisor candidates in nail-biter races

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday March 8, 2024
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Steve Hansen finds himself in a close contest for Sacramento mayor. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Steve Hansen finds himself in a close contest for Sacramento mayor. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Gay men vying for Bay Area supervisor seats and to become the first out mayor of Sacramento find themselves in nail-biter races. It will likely be several more days until final outcomes are known in the trio of contests.

In California's capital city gay former city councilmember Steve Hansen came out of the March 5 primary in a four-way statistical dead heat on election night. The top-two finishers will advance to a runoff in November to determine who will succeed Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who opted against running for a third term and has pledged to remain in office through the end of the year.

Hansen had been four votes behind first-place finisher Dr. Richard Pan, a former state senator. And Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) was just shy of taking the second spot by 159 votes based on the unofficial returns posted Wednesday morning.

After an update of the vote count late Friday afternoon, Hansen now finds himself in third place, 196 votes behind Dr. Flojaune Cofer, an epidemiologist, who jumped from fourth place on election night to now be in second place. Cofer has 12,146 votes for 23% of those tallied to date, while Hansen is at 22.89% with a total of 11,950 votes.

Pan remains in first place with 12,495 votes, or close to 24% of the total. Now in fourth is McCarty with 11,790 votes, or 22.58% of the count to date.

The next update in the race is to come Tuesday afternoon. In a post on X Friday, Hansen said his campaign believes more than 40,000 votes still need to be counted.

He thanked everyone for their "patience as we await the final outcome. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to our community for the outpouring of support, to our volunteers for their extraordinary dedication throughout this campaign, and to the voters who made their voices heard at the ballot box. I encourage everyone to stay patient while the votes are counted and focused on our shared vision."

In nearby Solano County gay former Vallejo city councilmember Michael Wilson came out of election night in first place with 51% of the vote in the race for the open District 1 Supervisor seat. He is seeking to succeed his boss, District 1 Supervisor Erin Hannigan, as the first LGBTQ person on the countywide governing body.

Hannigan had endorsed Wilson in the race. His only opponent, Vallejo Housing and Community Development Commission Vice Chair Cassandra James, had been trailing by 232 votes. But the San Francisco native had pulled ahead by 532 votes on Thursday, and after another batch of ballots was tabulated Friday, James was further in the lead with 6,897 votes for 53% of the total.

Wilson now stands at nearly 47% of the vote, with a total of 6,098.

James had expressed confidence about being able to hold first place and be declared the winner in an email to her supporters Thursday.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my supporters! I also want to commend Michael Wilson for running an honorable campaign and appreciate his long service to our community," wrote James. "Should these trends continue and I am elected the next Supervisor from District 1, I want everyone who voted for and supported Michael to know that I'm proud to represent them, and I look forward to hearing their concerns."

Meanwhile, gay former West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon is in a strong position to become the first LGBTQ legislator from a district in the North Bay and capital region. He remains in second place in the race for the open Senate District 3 seat that Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) will be terming out of later this year.

The sprawling district includes portions of Contra Costa, Solano, Sonoma and Napa counties in the Bay Area as well as Yolo and Sacramento counties. With 26.3% of the vote, Cabaldon is poised to face in the fall Dixon City Councilmember Thom Bogue, a Republican who survived the Jonestown massacre when he was a teenager. Bogue remains in first place with 28.7% of the vote.

In Alameda County, gay Emeryville City Councilmember John Bauters is holding on to his second place finish in the race for an open supervisor seat. Only the top two finishers will advance to the fall runoff.

Bauters' current tally stands at 7,526 votes or 21% of the ballots counted to date. Still ahead of him in first place with 10,433 votes for 29% of the count is Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas.

Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett remains in third place with nearly 18% of the vote. His current ballot count is 6,304.

Supervisor Keith Carson made the surprise decision to retire at the end of his current term, leading to the nine-way race on the primary ballot to succeed him. Due to the crowded field, no one was expected to receive more than 50% of the vote in the March 5 election to clinch the contest.

Thus, the race will be decided on the November 5 ballot. Should he win the seat, Bauters would be the first LGBTQ community member elected as a supervisor in Alameda County.

Santa Cruz County races

Along the Central Coast queer mom Monica Martinez is on her way to becoming the first LGBTQ person elected to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. But she will need to continue her campaign through November, as she remains below the 50% plus one vote threshold needed to clinch it outright in the primary race.

Her vote share is currently at 45.83%, with a vote total of 4,566. Going into the March 5 election the Bakersfield native and well known nonprofit leader was favored to take first place in the four-person contest. Departing Supervisor Bruce McPherson had endorsed Martinez to succeed him following his decision last year not to run again.

"Whether we go to a runoff in November or the election is settled in the next few days, I am committed to continuing to fight for and represent the voice of this community," Martinez noted in a March 7 email to her supporters.

There are more than 12,600 ballots still to be counted. An update will come Monday at 4 p.m.

Should she be elected as expected, Martinez will become the first woman to serve on the countywide body since 2012. She will also be the first woman elected to the District 5 seat, which includes the San Lorenzo Valley and its communities of Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, and Felton, where Martinez resides.

Currently in second place with nearly 21% of the vote is Christopher Bradford, followed by builder Tom Decker at nearly 20%. Theresa Bond, an advocate on local water issues like Bradford, was in fourth place with 13%.

It appears that the Santa Cruz City Council will remain without LGBTQ representation on it, as nonbinary former union organizer Joe Thompson failed to win the open District 5 city council seat in Santa Cruz that includes a majority of the UC Santa Cruz campus.

With 32.53% of the vote Thompson, who lost their 2022 bid for a state Assembly seat, remains far behind first place finisher water engineer Susie O'Hara. A former city official now employed by a nonprofit, O'Hara is set to clinch the seat and avoid a runoff race having garnered 66% of the vote, according to the unofficial returns.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected].

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